DOMFESTA: A Night of Poetry
A number of poets, would-be poets and others who felt a desire to express themselves in verse and even song, converged at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dominica about three weekends ago. The effort was coordinated by the Division of Culture and the UWI.
Veteran poet Peter Piper, who has published about four booklets, was one of the early readers with a poem called "Talk". The poet is one of the original members of the now defunct Dominica Writers Guild of the 80's; he is always interesting to listen to as he takes you to unexpected journey's.
"There are all kinds of talk; cheap talk, expensive talk… Family gossip talks, political talk…or premium talk."
In the end Peter concludes: "I Peter Piper want LOVE TALK" while admonishing those with bad intentions to hold back their talk…interesting, funny, as only Peter can do. In fact this was written the very evening of the reading.
Calypsonian Emmanuel Haxey Salamat from his only publication of the 80's stated emphatically: " Dat is wat I am"
"I am the servant and I am the master Servant of a long dead, master of the living… A compa groove…Ophelia, Jeff Jo, Fitzroy,Tokeyo , Dice …a painter paints pictures on canvas I paint pictures on your silence."
A powerful, philosophical piece by one better known as a calypsonian, passionately presented with music and drums.
Then arose a Nubian queen, to assert her persona, one of five female poets who read that evening.
Her "There were stars in her eyes And a sunrise in her smile…. She walked with the confidence of a woman with a million… Emotionally in tangent…mentally competent… The air she breathes seems to give off inspiration..." Comfort and affection …from her perspiration."
Such choice words and consciousness of self by the youthful Michelle Belle resounded well with the audience.
Then stepped up Ras Akowla with "Stolen waters", a mystical piece as the Rastaman himself, unassuming but fathomless, deep:
"Stolen waters are sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant That is what she says to him, trying to entice him Her seduction is temptation…let's do it right here, let's do it this way Seduce…he enters her passage…but sweet to the taste, bitter to the belly …jealousy is a husband's fury… Husband behind bars, wife left on her own…she sits at her door calling those who pass by ….but he knows not….and her guests are in the depths of the earth."
Powerful, thought provoking, inspired by Proverbs 6 verses 7&9.
The second of the four Golden Drum awardees to perform that evening was the irresistible Felix Henderson. He presented a piece of prose, a letter from "Mr. Raoul Rapheal Ratttlesmith, a member of the rat family who wrote to Mr. Ramon Ratcliff of Ratminster Road" to lament that clean homes and the threat of rat traps threatened to annihilate the rat empire. Well, of course, the audience was off in peals of laughter as Felix so eloquently, in his unique blend of English and Creole, revealed the contents of these letters.
Later he presented, with jovial underpinnings, a strong social message in "Attitude of Fattitude"
"There's something new in my country today I call it an attitude of fattitude Yo ka anni manji tout kochonni ….yo pasa bouyi you sanngkotj, Yo pasa pliche fig, look de stomack look like a butt …double tete, double belly, double, double, double"
Harry Sealy, the hub for a couple decades now around whom literary art is organized and performed locally, chose to feature the work of two regional poetry and prose stalwarts. Mutabaruka's "Dis poem":
"Dis poem is old , new Dis poem is was copied from the bible your prayer book ...play boy magazine, CIA files, KGB …this poem is messing up you brain make you want to stop listening But you shall not stop listening to this poem Dis poem shall disappoint you…dis poem… Will continue in your mind."
And Louise Bennett's "Colonization in reverse":
"Oh wat a joyful news miss Mattie I feel like me heart gwine burs Jamaica people colonizing…England in reverse.
It's the best I've seen Harry Sealy for a long time; he was fluent and dynamic, really adding colour to the expressiveness of language. He made the poems his with some help from Ras Algie on drums who did his own piece and accompanied Ras Mo as well on the opening number "I am a poet and I write."
Co-mc Gregory Rabess of " Wosh La " fame did a performance piece where he got the audience involved with one dedicated to our Dominican heroes. The elder in the building Dr. Kay Polydore also added her own special touch of satire in poetry during the open mic.
Closing out the evening was Shawna Johnson, organizer of 'Lyrics under the stars'- this time she did it under the lights at the UWI:
"I wasn't born to conform to society's norm My thinking may be a little off track To the majority of people My behavior may seem wack But I am real, that's the entire ordeal I'm a truthful, fulfilling meal"
And what a meal we had as part of DOMFESTA poetry celebrations. Indeed man shall not live by bread alone.